Dusty McGehee: Stone cold tracking team

Stoney Stone, of Ruston, is no stranger to being on a team.  He has been on many in Lincoln Parish and beyond throughout his younger years, using his right arm for all it’s worth.  Stone had dreams of making it to the big leagues, but now he is part of a different kind of team.

Arguably, the greatest one he has ever been on.  His teammate is man’s best friend, his 4-year-old blue heeler, Maggie.  They have formed one of the greatest deer tracking duos in not just Lincoln Parish, but the entire state.

How did this elite tracking team form?  At the time, Stone had two young sons and wanted to ensure that they would be able to recover any deer that they would potentially shoot.  He researched all the different breeds of tracking dogs and decided on the family-friendly blue heeler. Maggie was welcomed with open arms and joined the Stone family as a young pup.

At just 10 weeks old, Stone began to train Maggie.  He would imitate a hunting scenario and create a shot scene with blood and fur.  As Maggie progressed in her training, he began to make the trails more and more challenging.  She excelled at the blood tracking, but Stone didn’t want her to be just any blood tracking dog, he wanted her to be in the elite ranks of dogs that track the interdigital scent gland.

When a deer is wounded, the interdigital scent gland puts off a pheromone between the hooves.  Stone stepped up his training to include a deer hoof/leg and Maggie took to it quickly.  As she excelled in her training, Stone knew he had something special.  The team then joined the Louisiana Blood Trailing Network. 

Maggie’s resume is quite impressive at a young four years of age.  She recovered her first deer at seven months and at the time of this writing, has 96 total recoveries under her collar.  Her longest tracking distance was a 10-mile trail that ended with a large Lincoln Parish buck being recovered.  When help is needed in this area, Maggie is one of the most sought out dogs in the Louisiana Blood Trailing Network. If your deer is mortally wounded, she WILL find it. 

What is the Louisiana Blood Trailing Network?  It is a not-for-profit statewide team of 250-plus handlers and deer tracking dogs that formed to help the hunting public.  Just in Lincoln Parish alone there are 18 handlers to choose from. 

How do you contact them?  Join the Louisiana Blood Trailing Network group on Facebook.  You can find more information and see the list of handlers in each area under the “FILES” tab.  If you prefer not to contact the handlers directly, you can comment what parish you need assistance in, along with your phone number and the group admins will send that information to the handlers.  The service provided by these handlers and their dogs is free of charge.  They enjoy working their dogs and assisting hunters in recovering their deer.

When should you “call in the dogs?”  Stone recommends that you survey the scene and use your basic judgment.  If you suspect you hit the deer behind vitals, you find bone at the shot scene or you find no blood at all (and you’re confident you hit the deer) are all scenarios in which you should get assistance.  As the old saying goes “When in doubt, back out.”

Why should you call them in?  We owe it to the deer we hunt to harvest them humanely and as quickly as possible.  In the event there is an errant shot, the dogs can track and bay the deer.  No respectable hunter wants an animal to suffer.

I’ve personally witnessed Stone and Maggie track a deer for me.  They are not “deer runners”, they are deer recovery experts.  In a food plot full of deer, 12 hours after the shot, Maggie sorted through all the tracks and human scent, and successfully found my deer.  I was in awe watching Stone and his teammate doing what they do best. 

They say a dog is man’s best friend and this is certainly true when a hunter finds himself in a desperate situation where they need to put in a call to the bullpen.  Rest assured, Stone and Maggie will answer the call.